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The Ras and the Cartographer Disagree on How to Truly Find the Promised Land.

Updated: Oct 7, 2019

On the surface 'The Cartographer Tries To Map A Way To Zion' seems to just be a disagreement between the spiritual and scientific paths. But when the reader gets deeper, they will understand that this collection of poems looks at the changing societal landscapes, the history of this island and what has shaped it, colonization, discrimination and enlightenment. Kei Miller uses poetry with an insight that is unmatched to vividly paint the opposing views of the cartographer and the Ras; where one sees the world in what can be measured, contained within borders and traversed by roads, and the other sees how intrinsically we and all living things are connected, and move instinctually within it.

In Quashie's Verse, Unsettled and Me-No-Sen-You-No-Come, Miller deals with the advent, attempted taming and repercussions of colonialism. Men who look nothing like Quashie, speak his language or understand his way of life have come to his land and upended all that is familiar to him; the wild and beautiful land is viewed as ripe for the conquering and civilizing and the blatant disregard for those who were there before, when they muscled in and took what they wanted.

vii depicts what man has yet to understand, that there already exists maps that are inherent to animals and would be to them as well, if only he was to listen. xix, xx, xxi and xxv explores the cartographer as he comes to understand what the Ras has been trying to communicate, even as he defends what has been accomplished and what is yet to come through learning and mapping, and finally when he realizes that what he is really seeking, he may not be able to achieve through charting. In xxvi, the Ras illuminates the true path to Zion and the livity needed to enter that most I-ly of places and leaves with mannaz and respeck in xxvii.

There is a certain wit and depth of understanding that comes across through each poem, it is almost hard to believe these are poems and not a literary exposition. Kei Miller has yet again shown his gift to dissect a subject and inject it with a certain magic wrapped around reality.

A masterful collection that can be read time and again, with the reader gaining something meaningful each time.


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